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Developing quality with Jobneel at Naciemiento

2 weeks ago I visited Jobneel at Nacimiento in Santa Barbara in Honduras. We have been buying coffee from Jobneel and his father Extreberto (Cielito Lindo) for almost 5 years now through the Cup of Excellence and also direct. Although I had a very productive visit to their farms last year, I wanted to try to push Jobneel into doing even better during this visit.

Processing

I was really happy to see that Jobneel was already using the african washing technique that we worked on last year. This certainly removes a lot of the floaters and helps improve the average density and quality of the coffee.  However, I was disappointed to see that his wet mill was a total mess and very dirty. I told him straight away that if he did not clean his mill, most likely we would not buy the coffee as it is very likely to ruin the quality of the coffee. Jobneel started cleaning it straight away and on my recommendation he decided to go to San Pedro Sula the following week in order to buy a pressure washer (I don’t understand why not more farmers use this) to make cleaning the mill easier. We also agreed that it is a good idea to lay tiles in the fermentation tanks as the concrete is hard to keep clean. When I came back to the farm the second day, the mill looked spotless and we were both very happy.

Varieties

Another positive development I saw was that Jobneel was already planting more Pacas on higher altitudes on his farm because of the feedback and the higher price we gave him last year for that particular variety. The Pacas seems to be the best performing variety on his farm when it comes to cup quality as it produces winey and intense fruity coffees. Jobneel asked me if I liked the Catimor he is growing, and to be honest the Cielito Lindo coffee we have loved in the past has been a blend of Catimor and Pacas. Therefore I did not really know what to respond to Jobneel’s question, so we decided to cup the Catimor (Ihcafe 90) to see if I liked it. It turned out to be a very unpleasant experience. It tasted a lot like tobacco and burlap and had a rough mouthfeel and astringent finish. (Like clean Sumatran coffees can taste) Since this has been my experience from a lot of other Catimors I have tasted I decided to advise Jobneel not to plant more. Jobneel however, decided to start to remove his catimors and re plant more Pacas and Bourbon as soon as the new Pacas was performing well.

Cherry selection

The biggest challenge for Jobneel is to get enough pickers to work for him during the harvest as the farm is on the top of the mountain and there are no people living around the farm. At Nacimiento there needs to be picked coffee almost every day as the ripening of the coffee is not uniform because of the unstable climate. This makes it difficult for the pickers to only pick ripe cherries as there is a lot of green unripe and also overripe and cherries, that has broken because of excess rain, on the same tree. I was quite disappointed to see that there was a lot of green coffee in the receiving tank and had to spend about an hour talking with Jobneel how bad this is both for quality and his income. Jobneel constantly answered with how difficult it is to get workers and although he pays them more for only picking ripe cherries, it does not seem to be efficient. I decided to make an example in order to make Jobneel realize the importance of good cherry selection. I took a sample of cherries from the receiving tank and started counting all the unripe, ripe, overripe and broken cherries. The numbers turned out to be:

  • 51% red ripe cherries (Higher Acidity)
  • 17% purple ripe cherries (More sweetness)
  • 29% Green unripe / semi ripe cherries (Astringency and sour acidity and unpleasant nutty flavours)
  •   3% Overripe, dried or broken cherries (Fungus, ferment and unclean flavors)

Jobneel suddenly realize that he was loosing about 20 –  30% of his income just because the unripe cherries will be sold as a commercial coffee where the prices are low. I also told him that if his coffees were not cupping well, we will not be able to buy it as for us the quality is what matters the most. Later that day Jobneel had a strict chat with his workers and they all seemed ashamed that they had been cheating a little bit with the picking.
The following day we decided to take a walk around the farm and to control the pickers to see if they had improved. We took samples from 5 different bags from the pickers and Jobneel started counting the cherries in the samples. We were very happy to see a big improvement, and although it was not perfect it was a good start. The samples contained:
    • 82% ripe cherries (mix of red and slight purple)
    • 18 % semi ripe cherries (red and green)
    • 0% dried and overripe cherries.

I will be working on a solution together with Jobneel in order to make the picking 100% but it will take some time and we are looking at different methods, such as cherry sorting before delivery, utilizing 2 or 3 bags to separate the cherries during picking. Of course this will cost more money, but the results will definitely be worth it.
Jobneel promised me to supervise the pickers every day from now on and I am certain that the coffees we see being picked in March and April will have a lot better quality than the early harvest. (Also because of the slower ripening of the cherries.)

 Next year and beyond

For next year Jobneel will finalize his drying patio and raised beds so he can control his own drying. He will also start implementing the following:

  • Get an agronomist to make a map of the farm, mapping soil quality and variety in order to be able to separate lots and fertilize more correctly.
  • Standardise fermentation and washing techniques.
  • Standardise drying technique on raised beds and patios
  • Hire women to sort out bad parchment during drying
  • Extra sorting of cherries and parchment in march / April
  • Implement logging system and quality control system

I can’t wait to get started, but first I will be enjoying the fresh crop samples from Nacimiento and Cielito Lindo this year. Hopefully they will be available for sale in July.

 

 

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